As a passionate entrepreneur who also focuses on heightening progressive education for today’s youth, Robert J. Finlay believes that it is essential that children learn about the opportunities that can come from capitalist practices—such as launching a startup. As many Americans are concerned about improving fiscal literacy among both adults and children, Finlay notes that teaching lessons in entrepreneurship could drastically improve the financial future of the United States.
A recent article from Slate suggests that one of the most integral lessons in American capitalism—the lemonade stand—may be failing to deliver children the right message when it comes to learning the promise that entrepreneurship can offer. Specifically, the article observes, “The lemonade stand as commercial enterprise has been represented in art, movies, television shows, and video games. It is literally part of Norman Rockwell’s America. It’s also nonsense…If we really want our kids to learn how the modern American economy works; we’re going to have to take off the kid gloves.”
Although he does not necessarily agree that the lemonade stand practice is detrimental to children’s understanding of economics, Robert J. Finlay does note that article makes some important observations of lessons that should be taught to enterprising youth. For instance, the author—Michal Lemberger—of the Slate report notes that when her own children launched a lemonade stand, they were not exposed to any lessons of comparative pricing.
Lemberger explains, “If my children’s experience is in any way representative, lemonade stands are joyfully embraced by adults but they don’t teach entrepreneurship. My kids’ clientele didn’t act like typical customers: They didn’t compare the price and quality of my kids’ lemonade to the price and quality of the lemonade being sold by other kids a few blocks over. They didn’t haggle. And that was the problem. Rather than encouraging an understanding of the value of money and hard work, my daughters’ customers taught them that all they had to do was show up.”
The article continues, “In their eagerness to help my daughters learn about private enterprise, they ironically undermined that lesson. Capitalism isn’t sentimental. It doesn’t coddle entrepreneurs. More businesses fail than survive. People think of lemonade stands as representative of pure enterprise, but in enthusiastically supporting them, they deny the true nature of our consumer culture, which rests on both the ideal and reality of competition and ruthlessness.”
So how can children learn that developing a strong business requires research and hard work? According to Robert J. Finlay, the more complicated aspects of commerce—including analysis of competition—are sometimes better left for older students. However, parents can help children understand that business development takes dedication. He states, “If you are trying to teach your child that success requires hard work, you should model this lesson in your own endeavors. If you develop a strong career path through dedication, you will surely establish a strong example for your child. Additionally, this lesson can be taught through practices that relate directly to children—such as working hard to obtain a good grade or practicing to learn a sport or musical instrument.”
In terms of how to teach children the more specific element of comparative pricing, Robert J. Finlay encourages adults to take their kids shopping with them. He explains, “The grocery store is an excellent way to show young children the importance of budgeting and comparative shopping. Include them in on the decision-making process, so that they will slowly begin to grasp the concept that it takes some strategy to understand how to get the best products for the best price. This is an observation that will stick with them for the rest of their life.”
While the time-honored tradition of the lemonade stand is not an honest representation of American commerce, Robert J. Finlay disagrees with the Slate article’s sentiment that the practice is detrimental to fiscal education. In fact, he believes that a child’s desire to work and earn money is something that all parents should take time to encourage and respect, as it will likely have a lasting positive effect.
Robert J. Finlay observes, “Lemonade stand or summer jobs, it doesn’t matter as long as your kids have an idea about money. Where it comes from and what it gets spent on is an important lessons all children must learn.”
While it may seem unnecessary to some parents, Finlay encourages adults to set up a dedicated savings account for them with the money that they earn. He notes that having a situated place to store the money will not only teach youth the importance of saving, but will also show them the value of protecting capital and using it only when it is wise.
In addition, while most children may prove motivated to work for money, Finlay encourages parents to teach youth the importance of working to make a contribution to the world. “As a founder of the Finlay Foundation, I have come to respect the value that kids can learn from simply working. Providing children with monetary compensation will definitely help them recognize the concept of rewards. However, allowing them to contribute their time and service to a charity or cause will give them the chance to see the benefit in helping others and working hard for the community,” Robert J. Finlay concludes.
Robert J. Finlay is a respected business leader who has achieved a great deal of recognition through his entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavors. Currently, Finlay is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of R.J. Finlay & Co.—a full service real estate, construction and building materials firm. As an experienced Wall Street professional, Finlay has continued to prove himself as a smart investor who has developed more than 30 businesses at an impressive rate of return. Finlay is dedicated to supporting local and fresh farming, as well as helping impoverished children and families gain the resources they need to live content lives. Today, among many other charitable efforts, Finlay and his wife lead the Finlay Foundation—a non-profit focused on promoting progressive cultural and educational initiatives and assisting New Hampshire residents in need.